INDIANAPOLIS, IN. (October 23, 2012) – While the IndyCar Series season has come to its conclusion, Panther Racing’s efforts with Hiring Our Heroes continues at a 230 mph pace. After a year in which Panther hosted local employers at each domestic IndyCar event for a program on how to combat Veteran unemployment, the team now focuses on reaching parts of the country where IndyCar doesn’t host races. These non-race events, called BOSS LIFTS – where employers fly in on military aircraft from other states to experience the employment program – started in May as a supplement to Panther’s at-track effort and is now set to expand during the offseason.

“People thank us all the time for everything Panther has done for these Soldiers, but I respond the same way every time: We haven’t done enough,” Panther Managing Partner and CEO John Barnes said. “There are still an unbelievable number of National Guard Soldiers unemployed, and we’ve got to work even harder to do what we can to fight that.”

Last Friday, a group of 50 employers and leaders from New York flew into Indianapolis to participate in the program. Upon arrival in Indy, the employers arrived at Panther’s headquarters to find an entourage of military vehicles and displays set up to help demonstrate the level of equipment the Soldiers are dealing with when they are deployed and have to be away from their civilian jobs. They also sat through Panther’s emotional hour-long program to help continue the education of why hiring Guardsmen isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do for their businesses.

“Why is this important? It’s about jobs,” Brigadier General Kevin Bradley, Assistant Adjutant General for the New York National Guard, said. “Flat out, we know we have great Soldiers. And as they come back from deployment many times they find that they are under-employed or because of the economy they’ve experienced a job loss. We’ve got to find the connective tissue between great civilian partnerships and the Veterans. We really appreciate the partnership with Panther Racing, in collaboration with ESGR, for the opportunity for New York to come out here and experience this great facility.”

Panther’s mission is clear: educate employers as to why hiring Veterans makes good business sense and make the connection between the local business community and local National Guard leadership. But one thing has been very clear amongst the employers who have participated in Panther’s program that have already hired Soldiers: The investment is worth its weight in gold.

“This is the lowest risk investment you can make in your workforce,” Aeon Nexus executive partner Omar Usmani declared when asked about hiring Veterans. “Imagine the investment our government puts into each of these individuals to make them into the best fighting force the world has ever seen. These (Soldiers) are trained to make the best out of the best. That’s not an investment I take lightly, it’s something I take advantage of. We’re not just helping them; we’re helping ourselves.”

Usmani sentiments were echoed throughout the season as Panther and representatives from Hiring Our Heroes engaged with employers about their experiences with Veterans in their workforce. The same has been heard throughout the country as the US Chamber of Commerce hosts hiring fairs throughout the year, with a goal of hosting 400 in 2012 alone. To date, Hiring Our Heroes has helped secure more than 10,400 jobs for Veterans and their spouses.

A heavy rain during Friday’s event cancelled the two-seater IndyCar rides that were scheduled at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but that didn’t keep some of New York’s top employers off the racetrack. A fleet of pace cars were rolled out, and while the guests may have missed on a 200 mph two-seater ride, a run around Indy’s historic 2.5-mile oval at 140 mph – in a driving rain – provided the type of thrill you can only experience around the world’s greatest racecourse.

Panther driver JR Hildebrand, the 2011 Indy 500 Rookie of the Year, made a trip back from California to speak with the employers as well. Hildebrand, preparing to enter his third year as the National Guard driver, has experienced what the Soldiers go through on a daily basis, both at home and when deployed. He’s visited both Army and Air Guard bases, been on multiple VA Hospital visits and heard first-hand about the highs and lows the Soldiers experience.

“I always compare it to the NFL Draft when you hear all the people on ESPN talk about all the intangible qualities that some of the players bring – stuff like leadership, work ethic and a lot of what all employers want – that’s the foundation of what makes Soldiers in the National Guard great at what they do,” Hildebrand said. “

And throughout the country, employers have no problem answering the all-important question: When you hire a National Guard Soldier, what are you getting?

“It’s what you want an employee to be,” Michael Keegan, Senior VP of M&T Bank, said. “It’s all the things you would assume; great leadership, they know how to get the job done, disciplined, focused, respectful. (Today) I walked into Panther Racing and was hit with a presentation that is, frankly, overwhelming. When you think about the statistics of Veterans – homelessness, unemployment – it’s an embarrassment. This was an enlightening presentation that was well put together. It shows that the private sector and the military can and should really work together.”

The military leadership who train these Soldiers know their attributes, and the message is starting to make its way to employers.

“You know what you’re getting when you hire a Guardsmen,” GEN Bradley continued. “First and foremost, they have a proven track record of excellence. They show up to work every day, they’ve been under stress and performed very well. (Soldiers have) a sense of service, and have put the service of their Nation above other things that maybe they could have gone off and done. You’ve got somebody that’s got integrity … selflessness, and teamwork and somebody that’s committed to excellence. What more could you ask for?”

Usmani was even more direct in his appraisal.

“It’s like buying gold,” he said of employing Veterans. - -